There’s only one phrase to describe Drokk, an imaginary soundtrack to British comic book institution 2000AD‘s colossal conurbation Mega-City One. That phrase is retro-futurism. It’s pure technological enjoyment transmitted from a time when writing a review like this on a handheld computer slate was just the shared dream of children and geniuses.
Appropriately then, Drokk is the brainchild of Geoff Barrow, of ’90s dance-macabre legends Portishead, and screen-soundtrack composer Ben Salisbury. Barrow is a longtime 2000AD reader and head of Invada Records, home to the album. It’s a side-project and labour of love for both artists.
The pair rely on decades-old Oberheim 2 Voice Synthesisers, an onboard sequencer for beats and digitally manipulated traditional instruments. The effect is a bit like an orchestra comprised of Cylons, T-800s and some very prodigious heart monitors.
It’s a strangely refreshing sound – how the music of our time was imagined 35 years ago when 2000AD began. Now that we’re all casual cyborgs jacked into the matrix it’s more like a siren’s call.
Obviously, not knowing anything about the world of Dredd is going to affect your listening experience to some degree. That won’t mean you dislike Drokk – it could easily stir the cold, automated soullessness of any late ’70s/early ’80s sci-fi or music fan, or twitch the ears of more recent IDM aficionados. Translate the mechanistic sounds you receive over to fond memories of Snake Plissken’s crumbling New York and you’re mission ready.
Stand-out tracks are hard to select as the standard is high. The fantastic Justice One sounds like someone playing a glass of water on loop while a simple synth hook repeats. Another, titled Inhale, tumbles through post-punk guitar and drums that tick like an undiscovered bomb.
By far the best of the album though is Inhale’s sister track Exhale, a five minute ethereal sweep of mutated chants that echo like the air over the Big Meg. Every song on the album has either a building sense of urgency or a deep undercurrent of monolithic timelessness.
If you hate electronic or ambient music then Drokk isn’t for you. Don’t get us wrong – you’ll still respect what it strives to do. In an age of overproduced, mash-up electro-everything, it’s difficult to remember when synths could be so eerily, sparingly representative of the future.
Drokk is without a doubt the soundtrack to the John Carpenter or Ridley Scott Judge Dredd movie that existed only in fanboy fantasy. Hear the track early on called Helmet Justice and you’ll agree.
If you like Drokk and live in the mainland UK then you might want to get down to London store Orbital Comics on the 16th May for a live performance of extracts from the album by Barrow and Salisbury.
No crunching dubstep or glitch squeaks in sight. No angsty metal band groaning about being set free while they collect a hefty fee. Every 2000AD fan, electro-kid and soundtrack buff should give Drokk a listen. It’s the law.